It’s the birthday of Ken Kesey (books by this author), born in La Junta, Colorado (1935). He grew up in Oregon — swimming, fishing, and riding the rapids on the Willamette River with his brother, Chuck. He was a wrestler and a boxer and was voted “most likely to succeed” in his high school graduating class. Kesey went to Stanford University, where he studied creative writing. At the Veterans Hospital in Menlo Park, he earned $75 a day as a subject in experiments on the effects of LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs. He stayed on as a night attendant in the mental ward, the basis for his first and most famous novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962). Pauline Kael wrote (about Kesey’s book), “The novel preceded the university turmoil, Vietnam, drugs, the counterculture […] it contained the essence of the whole period of revolutionary politics going psychedelic.”
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was made into a film in 1975 and won five Oscars the following year. Kesey wrote two other novels, Sometimes a Great Notion (1964) and Sailor Song, which was not published until 1992. He died in November 2001.